We arrived at our hotel via cab sometime around 10 a.m. and were greeted by polished marble floors, a clean pool, bar, the typical amenities of modern hotels. If the Mercure Les Sphinx were in Vegas, it would be on the mid to lower end side. If it were in palm springs, it might be pretty nice. Here in Egypt, it was pretty sweet. Anyways, it’s all open to interpretation and I was grateful for our accommodations so graciously provided. We checked into our room and collapsed on the big soft beds. If there’s one thing that we’ve been spoiled to – it’s comfortable beds – from our own tempurpedic mattress to the countless big soft beds that you can find in most hotels. The rooms were nice – modern decor, clean, tasteful with dark wood walls, and, most importantly – quiet. The most important part – the selling point of this hotel, however – is the view of the pyramids from the pool and patio. Poking over the top of the walls surrounding the outdoor area the Great Pyramid rises up into the sky making for a somewhat surreal backdrop. I mean – there it is.
I met up with Jimmy while Violet got back to grading papers. We had a gallery to hang. I had 5 large prints and we had art from Andrew Jones, Amanda Sage, Krystle Smith and myself that we’d brought. We scoped out the situation – a conference room with little arching inlets in the peaked Moorish style. No nails allowed in the walls. Fishing line? Hooks with adhesive? Time to go find some materials. Jesus Christ – we were in Egypt, a 2nd world country (it’s not quite third world, but definitely not first). Time for an adventure.
The day before, Jimmy met a young guy named Waleet whose family owns a perfume shop down an alley around the corner from the hotel. He was sort of a hustler kind of kid – making a few bucks here, a few there helping people out and bringing them into his shop to sell them perfumes, blown glass bottles, etc. Anyways, he’d told Jimmy that if he, Jimmy, needed anything, give him a call. So we went out to find Waleet. Ah, he knew exactly where we should go so we took of through the winding streets and alleys with him.
Most people are trustworthy and this is true the world over. They might want to make a buck off you but they don’t want to rob you. Plus, most people genuinely want to help. So now we had something of a neighborhood guide who could speak the language, negotiate for us, and help make it all happen. through the narrow winding streets with little storefronts selling home goods, fruit and vegetables, baked goods, everything you could want if you knew where to find it. the streets – asphalt and piles of dirt and trash and cats running all over and donkeys pulling two wheeled carts and old ladies looking at me suspiciously and men trying to sell me something and little boys yelling ‘hullo! hullo!’
Stops 1 – 3: bringing us to hardware store with gold door knobs with Allah inscribed on them, five and dime kind of store with nothing useful, a shack selling a plethora of goods but nothing we needed…
Along the way, Jimmy asked about the green posters with the check mark on them that we had seen plastered all over the walls everywhere.
“Is for the constitution,” said Waleet. “It tells people to vote for the new constitution.”
“Are you going to vote for it?” asked Jimmy as we hurried along.
“Probably,” said Waleet. “I don’t know. I will probably vote for it.”
I thought about Aladdin in Luxor, about his calculating eyes. And I thought about how most people unfortunately don’t calculate as much. At the same time, people want safety, they want security. Between that desire and the general ‘a vote for the constitution is a vote for Allah’, well, it seems it will probably pass. Is it the will of Allah? The will of the people? Who’s to say…
Anyways, we were coming up short on finding hanging materials so Waleet found his friend outside of a shisha cafe who has a pimped out little tuk tuk and we hopped in and sped off through the city traffic driving into on coming cars, through pedestrians, crossing streets with thousands of cars, minibuses, trucks, all seemingly going where they please honking horns hanging on for dear life. I was glad to be sitting in the middle.
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